Garbage, the new number on the beaches of Cancun

While the population of sargassum seaweed is at its lowest since the beginning of the season, the administration now has another problem to deal with: garbage.

Although there are fewer tourists in Cancun during the fall season, the beaches are even dirtier after a summer of crowded hotels and sky-high rates.

While litter on the beaches is usually caused by tourists who don’t respect their environment or badly behaved locals who should know better, the problem in Cancun can’t be blamed either.

Here’s a look at the state of the sand, the cause of the nasty debris, and the steps being taken to address the litter problem as the problems plaguing Cancun’s beaches move from one spot to another.

Although some of these beaches are hailed as the best in the region, the Federal Maritime Land Areas Directorate reports that just seven beaches produced a total of 34.91 tonnes of solid waste: Del Nio, Las Perlas, Marlin, Chac Mool, Gaviota Azul, Delfines and Nizuc Playa Coral. This makes these beaches much less attractive as holiday destinations.

Sargassum was generally safe for visitors, but waste is another matter. These beaches have been found to have glass under the sand, which could seriously harm swimmers and sunbathers, in addition to environmentally harmful plastic waste.

Cancun has a number of Blue Flag beaches, but since environmental sustainability and cleanliness are key to earning this distinction, it could soon lose them.

Sargassum has been blamed for much of the litter that ends up on beaches. Some 180 full-time employees are responsible for maintaining the attractiveness of the beaches during the high season.

Hotels, government and environmental agencies have worked diligently to rid the beaches of unwanted wreckage. However, it seems that they are currently facing a problem that is overwhelming them.

The neglected state of the beaches has in the past led some visitors to refuse to pay the accommodation tax, tourist tax and sanitation fees collected by the municipality of Quintana Roo to keep the beaches clean.

Letting litter accumulate on beaches in such large quantities could become a trend that exacerbates the situation. The government faces the difficult task of providing clean and beautiful beaches in Cancun that tourists have come to expect given the large number of visitors expected during the winter holiday season.